Working beyond Covid-19
Amidst a challenging market, Liberation, the UK’s only Fairtrade, farmer owned nut company, defied the odds to end the year with a profit. Securing an income for over 35,000 smallholder farmers, gatherers and their communities, this is quite an achievement.
As with most, it was business as usual for the company at the start of the year. Dan Binks, Interim Managing Director, told us how this included a site visit to peanut farms from the Del Campo co-operative in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the only one made during the year.
The company had also pledged to move the Liberation own-brand nut selection to recyclable packaging. Dan described how they still managed to roll this out, despite suffering some Covid-19 related delays.
However, by mid-March, the office closed, all staff began working from home, and a Business Continuity Plan was put in place.
Dan continued: “The main concern identified was around the shipment of brazil nuts from Bolivia due to tight lockdown restrictions in the country. Some areas were badly hit by the pandemic, with estimates of over 500 people in gatherer communities losing their lives due to the virus. The factories were subsequently closed and many, who live in extremely remote areas on the outskirts of the Amazon rainforest, were unable to access essential supplies.
“Fortunately, AIRA - a small association of 58 gatherers in this region - had identified the most vulnerable families who needed urgent support. There were 38 in total; some took up to 10 hours to reach by land and water. The co-operative used their Fairtrade Premium and other allocated funds to buy and distribute basic supplies including rice, oil, soap and medicine.
“Back in the UK, we saw sales increase. As nuts have a long shelf life, it seems they were a popular choice for those stockpiling food.
“Whilst the business has operated completely remotely, there have been significant operational challenges across all our value chains. Despite this, we have managed to maintain supply levels to our two major customers, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, and grow their two private label sales. This has only been made possible by our strong partnerships with our smallholder producer partners. Working on increased volumes with our major customers has enabled us to commit to further volumes with our co-operative partners in Bolivia and Kerala.”
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“So, as this difficult year draws to a close, It is important for liberation to reflect on The resilience of the smallholder farms And the importance of supporting the Health and wellbeing of those at the very Root of the supply chain. Liberation has high hopes for 2021, Including a move towards b-corp Certification and continuing to build Ever-stronger relationships with Partners and farming co-operatives.”